Law School Case Brief
Schultz v. Boy Scouts of Am. - 65 N.Y.2d 189, 491 N.Y.S.2d 90, 480 N.E.2d 679 (1985)
The relative interests of the domicile and locus jurisdictions in having their laws apply will depend on the particular tort issue in conflict in the case. Thus, when the conflicting rules involve the appropriate standards of conduct, rules of the road, for example, the law of the place of the tort will usually have a predominant, if not exclusive, concern because the locus jurisdiction's interests in protecting the reasonable expectations of the parties who relied on it to govern their primary conduct and in the admonitory effect that applying its law will have on similar conduct in the future assume critical importance and outweigh any interests of the common-domicile jurisdiction.
Plaintiffs, Richard E. and Margaret Schultz, filed this action to recover damages for personal injuries they and their sons, Richard and Christopher, suffered because the boys were sexually abused by defendant Edmund Coakeley and for damages sustained as a result of Christopher's wrongful death after he committed suicide. Coakeley, a brother in the Franciscan order, was the boys' school teacher and leader of their scout troop. Plaintiffs allege that the sexual abuse occurred while Coakeley was acting in those capacities and the causes of action before the court charge defendants Boy Scouts of America, Inc., and the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis, Inc., with negligently hiring and supervising him. Plaintiffs are domiciled in New Jersey and some of the injuries were sustained there. Thus, a choice-of-law issue is presented because New Jersey recognizes the doctrine of charitable immunity and New York does not. Defendants contend New Jersey law governs this litigation and that its courts have already determined that plaintiffs' claims are barred in a separate action against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark.
Did the conflicts of laws require that New Jersey law be applied to the cause of action?
The court affirmed, holding that interest analysis had become the relevant analytical approach to choice of law in tort actions in New York and the law of the jurisdiction having the greatest interest in the litigation would have been applied and the only facts or contacts which obtain significance in defining state interests were those which related to the purpose of the particular law in conflict. Under this formulation, the significant contacts were, almost exclusively, the parties' domiciles and the locus of the tort, thus the law of New Jersey had to be applied. The court held that the issue presented was barred by the New Jersey charitable immunity statute and had been actually litigated and determined by a final judgment of its courts.
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